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More pie…please!

What’s this #payitback business all about? And what does it have to do with pie?

(please note: that Sonya did sacrifice herself by having to eat the pie so we could take this photo)

When Sonya and I decided to launch ourselves into the micro publishing game there was one main thing we wanted to change. And that was the distribution of the pie! But what does a pie have to do with books? (Other than the fact that we like baked goods of all kinds …  a lot.)

Well, imagine the pie as the whole book production process, from the unedited manuscript all the way through until the book lands on your bookshelf or on your bedside table. That whole process is ONE BIG PIE.

Traditional Publishing and Distribution

A traditional publishing house will generally pay an author a standard rate of 8-10% royalty, print anywhere between 1500 to 40000 copies of a book and use one of the major distribution companies to get books into bookshops.

Now if you are a distributor, you job is to get a book physically into bookshops. To do that you might take anywhere between 65% to 70% of the pie. And usually you can get a bit more if you are also responsible for marketing the book to bookshops. That’s quite a large slice of the pie, thank you very much indeed.

The next slice of pie, which is a whole lot smaller (roughly 25%) goes to the publisher. (If you are a publisher who also happens to have their own distribution company you get an even bigger slice of pie, the nice crusty bit with perfect edges. Cream on top even.) Then that tiny piece of pie that is left, which is not really even a proper slice but more a collection of crumbs held together with leftover bits of filling? That’s what the author gets in royalties.

Now in a traditional publishing house the author will usually receive an advance, or a sum of money, which can offset the fact that their book may not sell more than 1500 copies (or the equivalent of their advance) and therefore not earn any royalties. And while 1500 copies may not seem much, selling that amount of copies of a local author (as opposed to an international author like Stephen King or Marian Keyes) in today’s local market is no shame! It is actually quite a significant achievement. And if the book does well and sells 40000 copies (cue fainting spells and popping corks), then it doesn’t matter a great deal how big the whole pie is because all the slices are substantial enough so that everyone is full.

However, when the slices are very small, crumbs even, no one is full and everyone is actually hungry and also slightly cross.

Why we wanted to give more than just the crumbs

Having been witness to this scenario of receiving and generating a lot of crumbs for the past twenty years, we thought there had to be a way we could better support the main creators of the pie here, the authors, while generating enough income for ourselves to support authors even more. The circle of life, so to speak (or pie)!

We started off with the idea that we wanted to pay authors a much higher royalty rate, and then built a model around that concept. That is the basis of our #payitback policy. If we make money selling directly to you, dear readers, then so should the authors.

Essentially, as publishers, what we are doing is investing in an author’s work. That investment, in the form of editing, typesetting, cover designing, printing, promoting, marketing and shipping, comes at a cost, obviously, but the aim is to cover those costs and make a little more so we can invest in the next book. The profit margins are small, indeed, microscopic, but they do and can exist. (Of course it does really help if an author can attend book signings and give talks where they meet and greet and generally get amongst it but I am pretty sure no one’s business model anticipated Covid-19 and a shutdown of society!)

Now, this is not to say that by cutting out the main consumer of the pie, the distributor, that the rivers of money automatically flow in. Far from it. That is because distribution is actually really, really difficult! It is a hard slog to get people to take notice of your books, especially booksellers, who are used to dealing with the big publishers and the big distributors, where they can order multiple copies from the one source, and then send the books back if they don’t sell. Because we operate on a firm sale basis, meaning if you order a book then you pay for it, albeit at a discount, we realise we are viewed as more of a risk.

How you can become an integral piece of the pie

However, we believe in the quality of our books and what we know is that quality always wins in the end. When people who love good, well-written stories find out about one of our books they often go online and look for it, or go to a bookshop and ask the people there to order it in.

So this is where the readers come in. If you appreciate the creation of Australian stories and want to support the authors who write them, then purchase a book directly from our website. By doing this not only are you guaranteeing yourself a good read, you are also ensuring the authors receive a much higher royalty payment (150% more). Another great option is to go to your local bookstore and if they don’t currently have the book in stock, just ask to order it; bookshops are friendly places and will be more than happy to order it in for you.

Essentially, by doing this you are supporting independent Australian publishing and ensuring that authors get a bigger slice of the pie (with ice cream)!

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